The 33 week premature baby was having difficulty digesting food. The same amount that was put down the NG tube was aspirated out several hours later. Nothing was being absorbed. There was a specialist in Juba who could possibly help and perform surgery, but the family didn't have the money to go, and the little baby was probably too fragile to make the bumpy trip and survive. We walked over to the bed to disconnect the monitors from the child. The little boy was snuggled under 4 warm blankets face and belly down resting against mom's tummy. The family asked if they could wait for the baby to die at the hospital instead of at home. We would do what we could to keep him comfortable. I forced back tears as the mom wiped her own eyes and rested her head back on the bed enjoying the final tiny breaths and weight of her new baby against her skin.
A new part of my heart opened when my son Lewis was born - an unexplainable softness, a need to stand up for the innocent, a need to provide for the helpless, and protect the exposed.... This new world of having a child makes working in a pediatric hospital unexpectedly harder than I could have ever prepared for. I feel my only connection, my only similar quality to these moms is that I have a baby too and whether right or wrong I can't help but picture Lewis's face on every sick child I see. In every mother I wonder if she feels what I would feel if it were my child who was sick, or my baby dying. And yet, the vast differences in culture have made me feel I am a chasm away from these hurting mothers and children. I don't know or quite understand their take on the situation so I don't know what encouraging words to say....not to mention that I can't speak any words they would understand - I don't know that much Juba-Arabic yet. And while I know I am walking a road that leads to compassion fatigue, at the end of a long day I feel I have, in a small part of me, watched Lewis be sick all day, watched him die in my arms and watched myself miscarry my baby because of Malaria.
I move through my day of work soaking in the experiences, stories and situations of these women. Most of the time I feel my heart can't take anymore, but the patients keep coming. An unending stream of difficult cases. I can't let myself wonder "if this was in America" because we are not in America. We do what we can, and we do it the best we can do, but because of time, culture, resources and education differences I have experienced a vast amount of pain and death here.
Deep down I know that in the midst of this sorrow there is Hope. The same afternoon I watched a mother saying goodbye to her premature newborn I watched another mother and baby survive childbirth because a life saving c-section was available. I see children and mothers who would not have survived a case of Malaria be discharged home. I see our wonderful South Sudanese nurses tending to wounds and ulcers that would otherwise be life threatening.
But to be honest, I am more often overwhelmed than hopeful, more often discouraged than encouraged, but I feel the Lord working in me - opening my heart to the suffering this world experiences and showing me the road that will lead to understanding. Only He can make us whole again and only He can restore this broken existence to perfection. One day there will be no more tears or hurting - but until then we do our part to ease the suffering and give people Hope that this life is not all there is. Jesus is coming back again!!